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Memoir Review – On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

I have always harbored a desire to write, and of course, be published. Depending on the different stages in my life, I have thought about writing novels, children’s books, and works of non-fiction. Lately I’ve been contemplating writing a fictional account of some of my ancestors’ adventures in early America. I’m part Irish and part Cherokee…which, if you think about it, are two cultures that lend quite easily to real adventures, let alone fictional ones. But, to be honest, I’m still pretty much at the daydreaming stage, although I did do quite a bit of research into retelling Celtic folktales for children about 10 years ago. It’s my guess that there are quite a few other folks out there who not only dream about writing, but could even be farther along than I am…and actually writing! If so, I have a great book to recommend: “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.

I suppose I should pause here and say that even if you don’t enjoy King’s work, or if you’ve never read any Stephen King, you’ve got to admit that he must be doing something right. He’s one of the most successful writers in the world today, and he offers some very good, concise, down-to-earth advice on writing in this book. I should also point out that, even if you have no desire to write so much as a grocery list, this is still a fascinating book because King tells us about his early life and how writing came to be in his blood. And remember, he’s a good storyteller.

The first third of the book covers King’s early years, beginning with his earliest memory:

“I was imagining that I was, in fact, the Ringling Brothers Circus Strongboy. This was at my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Oren’s house in Durham, Maine. My aunt remembers this quite clearly, and says I was two and a half or maybe three years old.

I had found a cement cinderblock in a corner of the garage and had managed to pick it up. I carried it slowly across the garage’s smooth cement floor, except in my mind’s eye I was dressed in an animal skin singlet (probably a leopard skin) and carrying the cinderblock across the center ring. The vast crowd was silent. A brilliant blue-white spotlight marked my remarkable progress. Their wondering faces told the story: never had they seen such an incredibly strong kid. “And he’s only two!” someone muttered in disbelief.

Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the lower half of the block and one of them flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain was brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only held the top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on one bare foot, mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the wasp.”

 

King goes on to recount other adventures of his youth, his marriage to his wife Tabitha, also a writer, the birth of their children, the sale of his first novel. With every life experience he shares, he somehow brings it back to his craft, and how it influenced his writing.

The second third of the book, King gives aspiring writers a “toolbox” as he puts it; tips and tricks of the trade. I consider this a tough love, crash course in creative writing. He gives an example of an opening to a short story he wrote…and then he gives us the edited version, a wonderful example of how to sharpen a story. He also believes that good writers are voracious readers, and to that end, provides a reading list.

The book ends with a recounting of the nearly fatal car accident in the summer of 1999. King was walking along the road and was hit by a drunk driver in a van. He tells of this life-altering experience as if it was a scene in one of his novels, but chillingly enough, it’s all real.

At one point I mentioned here that I enjoyed reading memoirs written by authors, and happily I found another one. The bonus is that I also received some great tips on writing. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually put pen to paper next!

 

 

 

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One Response to “Memoir Review – On Writing by Stephen King”

  1. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Great review Vicky thanks so much!

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